One of the great pleasures of travelling is a chance to try local dishes that are completely different to those one would try at home and use unique local ingredients. Peru is definitely at the top of our list when it comes to fabulous gourmet experiences, often found in the most unlikely places.
If you ever watch cookery programmes or live in or around London, you can’t fail to notice that Latin American cuisine is fast becoming ‘the next big thing’. The Olympic Games in Rio has helped too, with a certain well known high street food hall offering Latin American inspired summer dishes too.
Peru is most definitely at the forefront of a foodie revolution with culinary heavyweights such as Virgilio Martinez and Martin Morales opening up restaurants in London such as Lima Floral and Ceviche.
I think what fascinates me about Peruvian cuisine is the vast array of unique and unusual ingredients that are used in traditional dishes, which are only now becoming more well known. That is definitely a part of its exotic appeal.
Yes there are some incredible top level restaurants in Lima that offer a sublime dining experience – these places are now so internationally known that they must be reserved many month in advance.
However, I think my favourite way to explore Peruvian cuisine is by visiting ‘huariques’. A little hard to translate – perhaps ‘a little nook to eat food’? They are almost like people’s homes, a sort of pop up restaurant where I have eaten some of the best cooking in Peru. Each one often only concentrates on a single recipe or speciality handed down over the generations so it’s worth trying a few.
Last time I was in Lima, I took to two wheels with my guide and visited different huariques in the suburbs by bike. It was a brilliant day exploring the local markets and meeting some great local cooks. I even got some insider tips on preparing amazing ceviche, although finding such fresh fish back in the UK is a bit more of a challenge!
You may also be surprised to hear that some of the most delicious and inventive food I have tasted in Peru was while I was walking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
Now this challenging and exhilarating trek takes four days through the stunning Andes with no other road access meaning all food, equipment, water and tents needs to be carried in and out by porters.
I remember delicious quinoa and roasted vegetable salads for lunch and hearty lomo saltado stir fries for dinner, all designed to keep up a trekker’s energy but served with flair and flavour in such a remote spot with minimal facilities, which completely took me by surprise.
Another unique Peruvian tradition I try not to miss whenever I am there is a pachamanca. This is a centuries-old tradition of baking food with hot stones under the earth for hours, offering seriously tasty slow-cooked meals.
There may be meat such as lamb, chicken or guinea pig (eaten throughout the Andes) with traditional vegetables such as corn or potatoes. The variety of both of these are seemingly limitless in Peru as the San Pedro market in Cusco demonstrates. I have seen purple, black and even blue potatoes as well as ears of corn of every hue and size.
And of course I have to have at least one Pisco Sour while I am there. You could get into conversation with a Peruvian and a Chilean about pisco if you want, as I once did, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you are in a hurry. The argument about who invented pisco rumbles on and the discussion certainly gets a little heated!
The Peruvians serve this clear grape brandy with lemon juice, sugar and egg white, all shaken to a gentle froth. It is strong but delicious so watch out when you are at altitude as it can go to your head very quickly!
Peruvian food is an assault on the senses with flavours and ingredients you may never have tasted before, served with passion and artistry. I can’t wait to go back and try more!
Images courtesy of Condor Travel.
My other favourite culinary experiences in Peru:
Best food on the move – Lodge to Lodge trek with Mountain Lodges of Pero on the Salkantay Trail to Machu Picchu.
Best local organic food and pachamanca venue – Hotel Sol y Luna in the Sacred Valley.
Best sunset view for a delicious Pisco Sour – Titilaka on the shores of Lake Titicaca.
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Posted by: Louise Mumford
Posted on: 19th September 2016
Read more: Posts about Latin America